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Moscow News
July 10, 2008
Russia and the Climate
By Alexey Peskov

The climate change problem was an obvious topic at the G8 Summit which has just wrapped up business in Japan. Russian and foreign experts assembled for a news conference at the RIA Novosti news agency on July 8 to assess the current state of events and share their forecasts.

Climate change - alongside traditional threats such as air pollution, contaminated drinking water, smoking or drug use - now ranks as one of the leading risk factors that can harm the health of the population. Excessive heat causes an increase in stress, heart-related diseases, and even death. The assembled members of the Moscow conference emphasized in their report that the poorest sections of the population would become the main victims of climate change. In the opinion of Nicholas Colloff,the representative of the British Oxfam organization in Russia, a higher temperatures will lead to a new category of refugees, who will have to emigrate from their home countries due to dangerous climatic processes. Colloff believes it is necessary to "adopt urgent measures" to address the situation.

Colloff reminded that the poorest people will mostly suffer from a change of climate. "Our aim to help in an adaptation to global warming. For example, we have a large-scale program in Tajikistan on an interaction with farmers on an increase of the agricultural productivity. The effect of the climate change is already apparent in Tajikistan. There are two principal happening, one of which is glaciers which feed the rivers in Tajikistan are retreating and rainfall has become more erratic. So floods have become more serious. And this has an impact on the soil erosion. This has made an irrigation system even more difficult.

This has already made a serious affect of the incomes of farmers. This has made living of a farmer even more marginal. And this promotes migration both within Tajikistan and to other countries, including Russia. Sol there is an important point in Tajikistan to adapt to the new climate context. And measures should be undertaken to reduce further effect of such changes of climate. And Tajikistan is not the only example. And migration patterns, caused by the unfavorable climatic conditions, which deteriorate economic problems in the world, climatic also likely to grow. And this will generate both social and political cost. And the reason why we are supporting this report is a recognition that Russia has a serious leadership role to play in addressing the climate change, in supporting adaptation measures of the poorer countries"

On July 3, the WWF issued a report called Climate Estimates in the G8 Countries. Russia was ranked sixth in this report, while Canada and the US got the worst marks. Russia's poor ranking can be explained by the low energy effectiveness of industry and the limited use of renewable energy resources. But Russia did achieve a considerable reduction in the total emission of greenhouse gases, which started shortly after the collapse of communism. And in Russia, transport emissions are not so high as compared to other industrialized countries because in Russia there are less cars per capita.

Special attention in the conference report is paid to the situation in the neighboring and adjacent countries to Russia, such as in Mongolia, China (especially Northern China) and the countries of the Central Asia.

It is emphasized in the report that the changes of climate and its consequences are expected to be so considerable and serious that they will inevitably affect Russia. Special emphasis is made there on the social and economic problems, which may be caused by the changes of climate, lack of water and the spread of diseases.

The assembled experts in Moscow agreed that a change of climate would have a considerable negative impact on Russia. Thus, comprehensive measures are needed for a reduction of emission of gases and that assistance should be given to the most vulnerable sections of the population in order for them to become adapted to the new conditions. Only these measures will allow Russia to escape disastrous consequences.

Speaking at the news conference, the coordinator of Russian programs on the change of climate of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Alexey Kokorin, said that the situation in Central Asia is much worse and much more serious as compared to Russia. He said that the temperature is already increasing and growing on every continent of the globe. Speaking about the situation in Russia, Kokorin pointed to a growth of the dangerous hydro-meteorological phenomena for the last 15 years. "All this cautions us," he said, "and statements made by the Ministry of the Emergency Situations regarding how much financial resources they will require [to offset the problem - Ed.] is not only an instinct of bureaucrats but a reflection of the reality."

Kokorin said that a change of climate will first affect the supply of fresh water. He then called for measures for addressing the food problem in Russia, mentioning the Arctic region, the southern regions of Russia, the Northern Caucasus, and the Republic of Tuva. He said that preventive measures are needed especially in the southern regions. Kokorin finished his address by urging the adoption of a national plan to improve health care, especially for treating infectious and other dangerous diseases.

Professor Simon Avaliani, who spoke next at the news conference, said that a forecast of life expectancy is directly linked to a change of residence. He stressed that a person's change of residency oftentimes incurs a change of climatic environment. In other words, those who do not change climatic conditions usually have the longest life expectancies, while life expectancy drops when people move to other places.

Simon Avaliani emphasized that in connection with global warming a number of diseases are prone to increase, including those which are not peculiar for these regions. He mentioned such outbreaks as tropical diseases, malaria and others.

Georgiy Safonov, the head of the Center of Economy of the Environmental Protection of the Higher School of Economics, and consultant of the Word Wildlife Fund (WWF), pointed to the need of international efforts in combating the change of climate. Stressing that the problem is "global and common," he said that until the year 2050, the damage related to the change of climate will only grow.

"If we do not do not do anything, the damage may reach between 5 percent and 20 percent from the global gross domestic product," Safonov said. He also called for urgent measures aimed at solving these acute problems.

Thus, the experts expressed their opinions and analysis climate chnge. But words alone may not be sufficient to address the problem, as many of the speakers also stressed. "Words," added one outspoken member of the audience, "should be supported by specific deeds and actions, and they should be undertaken by both governments of states and scientists, by politicians and public organizations, by officials and ordinary people. And only then can there be significant results."